Crazy hazy lazy days of summer
YMCA summer program is anything but lazy
EASTON — The lazy days of summer are here but not at the Easton Family YMCA’s Camp Lazy Days Program.
Camp Lazy Days is in its 27th year and provides a summer camp program for children with a range of special needs.
The majority of the camp’s activities are held at Easton Middle School on Peachblossum Road.
“We provide a variety of camp activities for any child that has been identified as special needs,” said Derek White, director of the Easton Family YMCA. “We have kids that are paraplegic, we have kids that are on the wide spectrum of autism and some with down syndrome.”
The campers do not actually have a chance to be lazy with two to three field trips per week, which include trips to the movies, boat rides on the Patriot in St. Michaels, regular trips to the park, and the Gooch and indoor play structure at the YMCA. Just last week, the campers went to Jungle Jims, a waterpark in Rehoboth, Del.
When the kids are not out and about, they are working on crafts or playing games in the gym. Ever y afternoon, the children also go across the street to the YMCA for an hour of swimming.
Children from ages 5 through 21 are eligible to join the five-week program. This year’s program began Monday, June 19, and will run through Friday, July 21.
This year, the camp has 65 participants. White said the camp has serviced anywhere from 40 to almost 90 kids a year through partnerships with many different organizations.
Currently, Talbot County Public Schools is the YMCA’s sole partner for the program. The school district provides a space and the transportation for the program.
In addition, many of the staff members of Camp Lazy Days are TCPS teachers.
“A lot of these kids are working with teachers that they work with throughout the school year,” White said. “We also have the ability to hire college students who may have in interest or may be on an educational path to helping children with special needs.”
“We have a lot of children with all different needs, so the fact that they are with people who understand what is going on with them is extremely beneficial,” said Courtney Willoughby, assistant camp director.
Regen Linn of Kent Island said her 8-year-old daughter, Jayce, has been attending the camp for four years.
“She really enjoys it. It is a great program,” Linn said. “She loves it here.”
She said the accommodations the program makes for each child are remarkable. Jayce has oppositional defiance disorder, mood disorder and attention deficit disorder.
“They deal with such a very broad range of issues,” Linn said. “They are very accommodating for everyone. I am very grateful for that.”
She said her daughter is able to be herself at camp.
“She looks forward to it every year,” Linn said. “She is always super excited.”
Camp Lazy Days not only provides knowledgeable and familiar staff members, but they employ an extensive staff, as well. This enables the camp to have a one-on-one approach for the children.
“Having that one-on-one counselors/student relationship is what they need — that and the group settings for socializing,” Willoughby said. “It is having the right people with them in the best situations.”
It is that one-on-one approach that parents of campers love.
“A regular camp wouldn’t understand that my son may need quiet time,” said Eugena Caldwell of Easton. “They wouldn’t have the one-on-one with camp counselors that they have here.”
Caldwell said her son, Aaron Caldwell, is 12 years old and has been coming to Camp Lazy Days for five years and refuses to miss even one day.
“He loves it. He tells everyone about the activities he does,” Caldwell said. “He will not stop talking about the waterpark.”
Caldwell said Aaron also enjoys being with his friends at the camp.
“With autism, it is hard for kids to socialize,” Caldwell said. “So the camp gives him an opportunity to socialize, and to play and to be with peers.”
White said the most important thing he wants everyone to know about Lazy Day Camp is that every child should have the opportunity to experience camp.
“It is important for these kids to get to do the things they do here,” White said. “We provide traditional camp activities, field trips, swimming, socialization and much-needed respite for their parents.”
Recently, the camp went to Jungle Jim’s Waterpark in Rehoboth, and Caldwell said her son will not stop talking about his trip.
All three parents agreed the camp also provides a much-needed respite for them.
“It gives me a break. I am a school teacher, so this gives me a break for the summer, too,” Caldwell said.
Respite is important for parents who have special needs children and so is peace of mind, Linn said.
“I feel like she is safe here,” Linn said. “I feel like no matter what happens, they are going to take care of what needs to be taken care of.”
“It’s nice to have that especially when you are dealing with children who might need a little extra attention,” Linn said. “It is nice to have that peace of mind.”
Julie Atwell of Easton said her son Trevor, who is 14, started the camp when he was 5 years old, making this his ninth year in the program.
“The camp really provides respite time for parents, or it helps to fill in that gap for parents when affording child care for special need kids can be very difficult,” Atwell said. “They do great things with the kids and take them on trips that they might not otherwise be able to do, and the kids love it.”
Trevor is nonverbal autistic, but Atwell said the thing she thinks he enjoys most is having somewhere to go.
“The camp also provides structure and routine which children with special needs require,” Atwell said.
“It is that consistency in their day that is key,” Willoughby said. “The routine of the day, from morning events, to lunch, to that swim time in the afternoon, the kids know what to expect, and you would be really surprised how it affects them when there is wrench thrown in — like if it rains in the afternoon.”
The Camp Lazy Days program is 100 percent funded through the YMCA Strong Communities Campaign.
“The Strong Communities Campaign pays for 100 percent participation in the program,” White said. “The campaign also insures that no one is ever turned away from the Y.”
The campaign also helps to fund camps like the Summer Learning Program, and it is solely donation driven.
White said without the donations from the community, members and organizations, these programs would not exist.
For more information about Camp Lazy Days or other camps at the YMCA, visit www.ymcachesapeake.org/easton.